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Sunday, October 27, 2013

If you can't find it or can't afford it, then why not make it yourself?  Moreover, if you CAN make it yourself, why not give it a shot?  After all, designers are essentially the masters of DIY.  Since getting my sewing machine about two months ago, sewing has become my latest obsession.

I might not be able to get down a perfect technique by myself, but eventually I want to be able to create pieces from runway and catalogue looks that I've always coveted.  My Project Runway marathons have certainly been inspiring.  But for now, I'll stick with the basics.

This DIY from Secretlifeofabionerd taught me how to make my circle scarf above.

I've found that a lot of DIYs out there can look, well... DIY, a.k.a. crafty.  Which isn't that great for a grown person.  But these three are super genius.  Favorite Clothing (from scratch, or almost scratch) DIY blogs:

Cotton and Curls, Charity Shop Chic, and Adventures in Dressmaking.

Favorite Youtube How-To sewing channels:

I've found that kid's clothes are a great way to start because they're less cumbersome pieces, simpler fabrics and shapes, and you don't have to be too picky about fit.  Some easy tutorials I started out with:
I made these for my two baby cousins (one who's 5, and the other who's a few months old.)

Patterns* that taught me basic techniques:
  • Baby overall/pantalon/skirt (above): Burda Easy #9772.  Basic facing technique to stabilize necklines, button holes, and simple ruffles.
  • Princess seam light jacket: Simplicity #1699.  Basic sleeve construction, simple darts.  Also comes with a peplum top, dress, and pants pattern.
  • Pencil skirt: Butterick #B5566.  Three different interesting variations (side and top paneled, ruched.)  Teaches invisible zipper insertion.
*Make sure you wait for pattern sales.  No one should pay $15 for a pattern when fabric already costs that much!  Then you might as well just buy the piece at the store.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

(Please note that I don't have experience with any other sewing machines, so my opinion is limited.  But if you're a beginner, this review could help you decide on purchasing your first machine.)

I got the Brother XL2610 (ordered from Amazon here) because the ratings and comments were the best in comparison to price.  It is selling for a discounted $99.  Most basic sewing machines seemed to be around $80-$140, which is reasonable considering all the little intricate mechanics that it's made up of.  I personally thought the pink design was cute and made it feel kind of personalized.

Basic features and accessories:  The XL2610 is a good weight - sturdy, but not nearly as heavy as a metal machine.  It features 25 different stitches, many more than you would need on a regular basis.  Inside the pull-out compartment is a pouch of various other tools - extra bobbins and universal needles, zipper, button, and quilting feet, etc. - great things to get you started when you don't know what you need.

Ease of use:  I was proactive and used a combination of the instructions and Youtube videos to show me how to do the basics.  The manual reads in English and Spanish (in separate paragraphs) but I have no trouble, because the English instructions are first, and bolded.  The steps are numbered and generally simple to understand.

Threading the needle is very straight forward, although I do have to occasionally tweak the automatic threader back into place so that it guides through the needle hole properly.  Threading the bobbin takes a bit of practice, but as far as the machine goes it hasn't jammed the bobbin.  I know in other machines there is a bobbin case that you tuck into the front, but this one is very easy and you just drop it inside the sewing plate.

Some of the Amazon reviews said that their threads were breaking and such, but I'm a total beginner and I have yet to have that happen.  I sometimes "lose" my thread when I first begin sewing because I didn't pull the top thread out enough and it flies back up, so I learned to clasp the top thread with the first two stitches.

The backstitch button is a lightweight push down lever.  It allows for speed with switching back and forth, but sometimes I wish it were a button like on more advanced machines, because otherwise I feel like I need three hands to feed the fabric through and push on the backstitch lever.

I wish there was more space in the arm so that larger garments didn't bulk up as much, but you only get that feature with the much fancier professional machines.

Durability:  This has a plastic shell and plastic knobs, bobbins and such, but it feels very durable even when carried around.  There is a "handle" groove in the back specifically for carrying.  I've sewn at least five decently involved projects now, and I am just now thinking that I might need to oil it.

With the universal needle I was able to sew through several layers of stubborn cotton without too much difficulty.  Online reviews said that it handles heavy denim material too.  It makes a bit of a "crunching" sound with thick layers that could be worrisome, but you just have to go slowly.  Sew "by hand" by cranking the handwheel for the difficult areas if needed.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.  Definitely a good buy.

Avoid sewing mistakes that I've made:

Test on a small piece of your fabric.  It is important to tweak the stitch length, width, and tension so that bubbles don't form and that your seams aren't too loose/tight.

- Keep an eye on your bobbin and make sure it has enough thread to finish your next "line."  When it runs out, you'll still have your top thread, but the stitches won't form because they're lacking the bottom thread from the bobbin.  It's troublesome when this happens in the middle of a seam.

- If you backstitch too quickly, your fabric can bunch or jam, or the stitches will bubble or bunch in the back and make it difficult to detach the garment.

- Make sure your needle matches your type of fabric.  For example, jersey is a lightweight fabric that stretches, bunches, and gets stuck in the sewing plate easily.  Switching from a universal to a ballpoint needle keeps this from happening.  The manual has a table on what needles to use for what fabrics.

Hope this helps!

Update Aug. 2, 2014:

After a year of sewing experience, I think my main complaint with this machine is that my buttonholes still do not come out symmetrical, even after following my sewing instructor's directions exactly and trying over 10 holes at once.  One side comes up tight, one side comes up spaced out, even after adjusting the little knob above the wheel.  Apparently that's just how cheaper machines are.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I don't like putting off projects... but I guess school has to come first.  Unfinished work makes me itchy though.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Although I haven't taken a fashion history class or anything, all the mainstream trends as of the past decade have seemed recycled from previous eras - peplums (50's), crop tops and chunky shoes (90's), flowy maxi skirts and jumpsuits (70's), Peter Pan collars (1900's), and even my favorite baggy top and skinny legs silhouette from the 80's (although now it's more flattering, IMO).  On the other side of the spectrum, however, a lot of avant-garde designers push the envelope way out there so that their looks are a lot less accessible, thus aren't as able to change the greater population's wardrobes.  Now I love all the innovative, creative collections that designers dream up every season, but I'm not sure if there have necessarily been any iconic, perpetuating shapes that can be added to the textbooks.  I don't want to wait for my generation's "look" when it's already been 20 years past.

Future talk always turns space age-y, a preparation for harsh environmental changes and the need to re-locate to Mars within the next 15 years.  Then I saw the two looks below and was excited by their "current modern" vibe.  This is what a woman, with a foot in the new millennium, should dress towards. The shapes aren't outlandish, but they're still new and unexpected and hard to describe with old definitions.    They contain elements that we're well acquainted with, but are as much for visual interest as for function.  Nothing's confined to a major reference or pinpointed to an obvious culture.  There are twists to the details - extra panels in the hood and leather mixed with knits in the first, and a semi-caped top with matching pants and low-strap v-cut heels in the second.  Their beauty choices (hair and makeup) were also new but not trendy.

What's more, these women are still very beautiful and feminine.  The female form is neither hidden nor on display.  Without needing to be masculine, there's a vulnerability to the strength and confidence that they possess.  Lastly, the edginess still feels very organic.  It's not in shiny plastics and metals like an astronaut - it's earthy materials and inspirations, reminding us that we can't get further away from nature if we're to survive in the long run.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

After a long personal debate, I finally gave in to looking for Asian-fit glasses because the a) transitions lenses and b) the unflattering look and fit of my old frames were preventing me from wearing them outside the house.  That's a huge problem when contacts run out, or get dry, or if your eyes are just plain tired.

In general, eye frames in the West are designed for Caucasian faces.  That poses a problem for Asians, who typically have lower nose bridges and wider temples, so these glasses need to always be readjusted.  Even if a frame fits "well enough," it can really impact eye sight and even give unnecessary headaches if worn for a long time.  Also, if you want a plastic frame (which I did), it's nearly impossible to find one with those attachable nose pads that they put on metal frames.

A quick Google search led me to TC Charton, the only American-based company that makes Asian-fit eyewear.  Now, perhaps the Western market shies away from this niche because it might seem racist to create an ethnically specific product, but I think just like African-American haircare, which has been pretty uncharted territory until recently (as far as I know), there is a clear difference in consumer needs that should be addressed.

I ended up going with the Ana frames in midnight blue (Domo-kun not included.)

Below is a comparison of my old Juicy Couture frames and my new TC Charton frames.  My old ones would always slide down and cut across the middle of my eye, which you can imagine isn't too flattering, and also made vision a little annoying in certain situations.  I think they were not quite wide enough, so the springy arms had a pushed out look.  Plus, the metal just made me feel really serious.

If you look on the inside of the arm, you will see a series of numbers.  The first number (53) refers to the width of the eyepiece.  The second (16) is the bridge size.  With Asians, smaller bridge numbers tend to be better.  The last number (135mm) is the length of the arms.  My old frames were only slightly off, but the change made a huge difference in fit.

I think the biggest factor is the nose pads, however.  They're much more raised than Western plastic frame nose pads.  Because they're part of the actual plastic mould, they have to be custom designed and poured - which companies here just don't do.

As for the color, it looks anything from black to blue-ish purple, depending on lighting.  The inside has a subtle marbling/tortoise-like pattern, which I really like.  These frames fit my personality a lot better - smart, but slightly edgy.  When I'm too lazy to put on contacts, these glasses to the dressing up for me.

(Wearing speckled bubble sleeve boucle sweater from Victoria's Secret)

Tips:  The TC Charton website gives you a list of ophthalmologists that carry the brand in their shops.  I called ahead to the one near my house to a) Confirm that they would accept my insurance, and b) If they had a specific frame in stock.  Although they didn't have the one I had been considering, they were able to order it directly from the company since they're already partnered.  If I wanted to choose another frame after trying them on, they'd just keep the one they'd ordered in store to sell to someone else.  After some back-ordering, I finally got my frames!

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About Me

Atlanta/Seattle, United States
What is most interesting is fashion when it's living. I find it inspiring when people dress well - but in their unique interpretation. Searching for people who enjoy having fun with their style and make their own statements. If you want your picture removed, don't hesitate to contact me!
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